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Van Stadens ramble

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Unpleasant weather, stong wind, temptation to stay indoors but also good for hiking so we decided to head off to Van Stadens to see if we could find a way to connect the River Walk and the Forest Walk as many people have requested.

On arrival at the top lookout point (11:00am) the first priority of course was to find a sheltered spot for coffee and then make a beeline to the bridge.


As long as one does not get too close to the edge of the gorge the going is quite easy and there are some very nice plants along the way. We were also pleasantly surprised to see evidence of hacking, particularly quite a few hakea had been chopped. As you get closer you get some impressive and unusual views of the bridge.


Apart from some debris thrown off the bridge and crosses painted on the concrete in memory of those who jumped it was quite clean underneath the bridge and not difficult to cross.


This can’t be said of the fence on the other side, quite a solid barbed wire fence and quite bushed up. We managed though to walk along it for a while and find a way through it and headed to where we though the lookout point was supposed to be. Again there was evidence of hacking, this time mainly wattle trees. Soon we got to the edge of the forest, followed the slope down and soon met the River Walk path not far from the turnoff, total distance only 900 meters.

Conclusion, with a bit of clearing and some easier way of crossing the fence it would be quite feasible to link the two trails and make it a longer round trip trail along the edge of the entire Reserve.

We continued our walk along the top section of the Forest Walk. It was nice to just amble along and take note of the names on the trees and various small plants on the forest floor.


To our horror though we discovered a dense stand of tall wattle trees near the beginning of the trail, something needs to be done about those quite soon, we don’t want the forest to be invaded by those, an ideal place for cut and apply Timbrel as far as I’m concerned.


On our way back across the bridge over the N2 I noticed something suspicious on our pipeline through the culvert and on closer inspection found that it has been damaged, I suppose our own fault by not protecting it with an outer sleeve like on the other side but one can do only so much.


Got back to the car in good time, a bit late for lunch which made it taste even better and after that doing some silly things like sweeping out the derelict potting shed in the old nursery and collecting the obligatory big black bag of ‘mother of millions’ by the bridge. Nice to see though that we are making progress and just staying ahead of them flowering and dispersing even more seeds. Five bags later the tall plants are nearly gone and then we can start on the seedlings.

Our track: (click to enlarge)


Van Stadens work party

Saturday, 02 July 2011

Official Friend of Van Stadens hack today. As I was in, let’s say, on of my more antisocial moods we ended up working mostly by ourselves but I think we still made a contribution. As we were driving towards the Reserve we discussed what we could do and didn’t really come up with anything specific we wanted to do but from there things just seemed to fall into place. We were the first ones to arrive and first looked how the pipe underneath the N2 had withstood the recent heavy rains and were not happy with how the pipe was exposed coming out of the culverts so decided, rather than joining the others popping Podylarias, to do something about that.

First we completed the job of putting the protective larger pipe around the section between the culverts and then decided to dig in the section between the road and the Reserve which was very exposed and also very tight because the Reserve’s workers had not left enough slack when they  did us a favour and dug in the pipe in the remaining section.


In spite of rocks, rubble, pebbles and bush we managed to dig a reasonable trench and covered the pipe quite well, a short section remains on the other side of the fence where it is way too muddy right now so we will wait for dryer times.

After that we turned our attention to the other side of the N2 where next to the bridge there is a patch of thousands of “mother of millions” (Bryophyllum) just waiting to spread themselves into the reserve and in next to no time had a huge bag full of them while there are still plenty left.

Time for tea with the usual delicious eats and the group then moved into the keurbooms to clear space for all the Protea and other seedlings to get a chance to develop.








Again, we made a big difference and, even though there is still lots to do, the place is starting to show potential as a botanical garden.

After that the committee drove to Gibson to present him with a token of appreciation for letting us work on his property so often. Pity he was not at home, we left it through an open window and hope he gets it.

The others had prior engagements and it was just us left so we stopped at the spot of last week’s concrete work to fix the crack and were pleased to find it all dry and gathered soil from mole heaps to cover the concrete, Pity to bury so much work and have nothing to show for it. Lunch was had in the car at the servitude looking out over the wonderful purple Erica fields. One of the locals came past on his way to Sunnyside, asked for a light for his cigarette and proceeded to chat for a while so we are up to date on the local news again. We seem to be quite a news item with the locals as well as they know exactly what we have been doing.

I am busy with a map for the reserve and needed some waypoints to calibrate it so next we drove around to fix some points and wondered what to do next. Pulling up some more “mothers of millions” seemed like a good idea so off we went to the old nursery where we had noted a few. Once we started looking though the few also turned out to be lots and one thing led to another and we started trimming and pruning to make the place more accessible.

That people do visit the old nursery was confirmed when a group of hikers joined us, unfortunately, in spite of some not so subtle hints from myself, they did not join in to help but rather picked Ellie’s brain about the reserve and what Fovs is doing, worthwhile in itself I suppose.

About 4 o’clock it looked rather threatening with rain and packing up seemed the sensible thing to do. We still drove around to the lookout point though and photographed these very pretty Leucodendrons on the way:


Pipeline – there is a crack in everything

Friday, 24 June 2011

On a bitterly cold and blustery Friday we made a date with Neil to go and do a bit of crack repair. Unlike Leonard Cohen of whom I borrowed the title quote our crack didn’t let the light get in but rather let the water out and the field was rather muddy.


My bright idea of a clamp and a rubber strip  wasn’t quite good enough to stop the leak until Neil had the brighter idea of opening the valve at the old nursery to release the pressure in the pipe and hey presto, we could do our concrete bit, pictures tell the story:


The pipe with its bandage


Mud, glorious mud, me preparing the hole for the formwork.


Mixing concrete and smearing the pipe with cement


The foreman is happy with the result.




And lastly, shovelling the mud back in. Now we wait for it to set and hope for the best. Neil isn’t in the pictures because by the time he came back the job was done. We forgive him because he organized coffee with Wesley afterwards.

Pipeline – lots of talk, little work

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

In amongst all the work fixing up the flatlet for the new tenant we still found time to zoot off to Van Stadens with all the materials, including a wooden box, to “quickly” pour some concrete around the offending leak. Ha, when we arrived we found that, in spite of the closed stopcock, the water was still running:


No way could we pour concrete in this cesspool, it would simply get washed away, so we started packing all our stuff into the car again when the owner of the property walked towards us with big steps, demanding what we were digging out. We assured him it was not one of his precious plants, Ellie would never do that, but instead were working on the water pipe. He didn’t even know there was such a thing and was most grateful to be alerted of its existence and we continued chatting for at least half an hour and he even offered his help if we ever needed assistance.

We didn’t quite know what to do next and returned to the reserve to see what the Wednesday crew was up to and were pleasantly surprised to see a good turnout all working hard transplanting Protea seedlings but it didn’t take too much convincing to make them stop for coffee and chatting, even more so when Rob and Marieke arrived as well. From that we took heart and decided to go back to the stopcock and see if we really couldn’t close it and on the way out met Wesley who also was in a chatty mood but eventually we made it to the stopcock and guess what, the owner of Whispering Pines was there and we made our acquaintance with him which meant another half hour interesting chat and finally managed to slow down the meter to a trickle by closing the stopcocks on both ends, still not enough though,


we will have to come back another day and first clamp a piece of inner tube around it.

Time for lunch, Ellie convinced me that Gibson’s pond was the ideal place and so it was:


except, guess what? Out came Mr Gibson with his three dogs for a chat so we really caught up on the local news today. Eventually he left and we could have lunch in peace, fortunately our new friend was very well behaved:


Back at home again we made arrangements with Neil to nail the leak on Friday afternoon.


Saturday, 18 June 2011

Today we went to Van Stadens for pleasure, planning a little bit of work but mainly to do the cycle route we had been discussing. Got away a bit later than usual and we arrived at the reserve just in time for coffee and then we got our bikes in gear and cycled from the reserve to Falcon Rock, then on to the railway bridge, towards Thornhill and then back to the reserve via the Van Stadens pass, twenty-two fantastic kilometres even though I must admit that for me the pull back up the hill was a little more strenuous then I had bargained for.


The highest narrow gauge railway bridge in the world, getting a bit rusty, good views down and towards the N2 bridge.


Back at the reserve in time for lunch so we parked off at “the dell”, the pond we created last week, what a delightful spot and it was good to replenish the depleted resources.

Time for work and to check up on the leak. We met Francis White on the way so we caught up on the local news and his ideas with the farm before digging around the leak. Turns out to be a crack in the asbestos pipe, should be quite easy to fix with some tape and concrete so we four by foured along the very wet track to the stopcock to turn it off so the pipe can dry out a bit.

All good and well but when I checked on the meter it was still running! This can only mean that they have stuffed up the pipe under the road when they laid the new pipe last week. The never-ending job continues.

Finished, but….

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Well, last Sunday was the “official” switch on of the pipe, Neil did an excellent job giving our visitors a bit of background on the water supply and the trials and tribulations of the whole project. For the occasion I quickly switched the pipe so we had water running by the storage tanks.


Ellie baked a special cake for the occasion depicting the pipeline and the various points of interest and Jenny supplied the bubbly so we had a nice party afterwards.

As the pond was full and we did not want to waste the water we turned the valve off at the old nursery so we could find out how serious the water loss in the section between the two valves is, so yesterday, six days later we read the meter again and to our horror saw that we had used another 55 cubic meters. Fortunately it had also rained more than 100mm during the week and the dam is overflowing so no real harm done but we were keen to find where all this water had gone. We walked the entire length of the pipe with not a leak in sight so we were very puzzled until Ellie showed me the puddle by the railway which looked very much like a false alarm and on the way back across the meadow I happened to stumble upon the spot where the water bubbled out of the soil.

This of course means a little more of digging and sorting out, after the copious rain we do not have to do it too soon but we didn’t have the tools with us to switch the main valve off so it is quite important to get back there quite soon.

Pipeline – all the way

Friday, 3 June 2011

Another trip to Van Stadens, this time to connect the final piece of pipe to take us all the way to the storage tanks. We first had a look how the trench had been filled in, a rough job with the frontloader but at least it is covered. We wanted to give the pipe a good run before Sunday’s official switch-on but we couldn’t very well let the water flood the nursery so we led the pipe into the pond at the rockery, turned on the stopcock at the old nursery and then off to the main valve to turn that one on.

We first took a reading of the water meter so hopefully we can do another reading on Sunday and see how many litres we can get per day and then opened the valve and cleaned out the manhole and the rim so the cover fits properly again before zooting of to Gibson’s to collect all the bits and pieces of pipes etc that were littering the landscape, this is the result:


a trailer full of assorted asbestos pipes and such like, I guess this means a trip to the municipal dump sometime.

Back to the Reserve to see if the water was filling up our little dam and lo and behold, water rising:


A small pool was forming, we noted the level on a rock and went and rolled out the remaining pipe in anticipation of Neil’s arrival, admired all the seedlings in the nursery, they are doing very well and decided it was time for lunch. What a glorious day it was, out of the wind and in the sun, reluctantly we went to the old nursery to install the manhole cover we had retrieved, got a phone call from Neil saying he had arrived, installed the pipe in the trench and then just sat around the pond with big grins on our faces admiring the result of so many weeks of toil.


It was filling up fast, soon the rock will be submerged, lots of banter about skinny dipping but no one was foolhardy enough so we left it to fill overnight. On the way out we popped into Wesley’s office though to warn him that the pond might overflow and that he could close the stopcock by the old nursery if he wanted. then, one last look….


and back home again.

Pipeline – mixed feelings

Thursday, 26 May 2011

After the miserable, cold, rainy day yesterday it was a pleasure to be out at Van Stadens this morning. We were suitably impressed with the furrow the guys dug for us, no messing about through the fynbos by the road and all the way to the end inside the nursery by the drums.

We retrieved another coil from the office, unrolled it and joined it, unfortunately all I had left was a T-piece so I made a temporary arrangement by the rockery, probably a bit too far to be a permanent fixture and laid it along the furrow.

EllieAction We were a bit worried that cars would drive over the pipe so all action Ellie decided to dig the pipe in for a bit and then we routed the pipe into the dam.

Now for the exciting bit, drove to the main valve, first inspected what, from now on, will be known as Neil’s turd (sorry Neil) where he had poured concrete and then turned the water on.



Back to the reserve, no water but we could hear it gurgling when we put our ear to the end of the pipe and luckily we just had put it down again when the water squirted out. Time to celebrate with some coffee and as we were sitting there Wesley drove past so we showed him the result of fovs efforts, very pleased with the strong flow.

After coffee I wanted to check the liters per minute but suddenly the strong flow had changed to intermittent with lots of air, we are not quite sure what caused it, perhaps we didn’t wait long enough for the air to clear along the whole length.


We were running out of time so we quickly drove to the old nursery to close the stopcock and then to the main valve again to check if the water meter was still running and unfortunately it was but ever so slowly. If this means that there is still a small leak somewhere or whether the pipe was still filling up with air escaping through the air release valve we don’t know, we will find out another day.

Pipeline – trench

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Public holiday today for the few workers among us because of election day. This meant that Neil could come out to give us a hand with the latest leak.

On arrival we found Rob already hard at work digging in the pipe along the big drainage furrow from the N2, he had just buried the joint we wanted to tighten, no problem though. We then got the keys of the Fovs room and got a roll of pipe and made a  connection from the N2 to the wetland. While doing that I had left the roof of the car open and we had a visitor:


Off we went to our latest problem, the leak by the “washing line” and dug a trench uncovering the old plastic pipe up to where it was joined to the asbestos pipe. We didn’t have a new join so while Ellie and Neil went to Deon on the off chance that he might have one I prepared the join and fashioned a wooden plug to check if the remainder of the pipe still had leaks.

It was only partially successful because the prop didn’t quite fit so there was still some leakage but the meter was running a lot slower than last time so we hope for the best.

Lunch was had by the potting shed where Rob had joined Jenny to bag the pile of aloes which had been recovered from a building site and afterwards we decided to continue digging the pipe in where it was exposed across the track by the flyover.


Luckily the soil was still moist after the recent rains so the digging in the compacted soil was not too bad and we made better progress than expected.


Afterwards Neil went home and as the weather had turned quite grim we decided to call it a day and went for a walk along the river walk to admire Rob’s latest impressive digging in, soon the whole slope up will be protected which means only the trench section will be left.

Getting there!

Pipeline – track and trace

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Today we wanted to map the whole line with the gps and combine that with connecting the missing bits, turn on the valve and check for leaks.

We were hoping that the Van Stadens staff had at least made a start with the furrow they promised to dig for us and had laid out last week with tape but no such luck.


We connected a short piece of pipe near the fence to bring the water at least inside the reserve, unfortunately it was too short so we just laid it inside the ditch. Then we walked as close to the line as possible and put in a waypoint for each and every join and feature, twenty five joins along the whole line. On the way we also put in a new piece where the porcupine holes were and connected the short, missing piece by the Gibson stopcock. Said hello to the local residents, Ellie pacified the dogs, turned the stopcock twenty turns and started walking back.

Almost immediately bad news as we heard a sucking noise near where Neil had patched the pipe previously, it looks like we’ll have to bite the bullet and take our first join even closer to the manhole. We decided though to keep the water running, carry out our inspection and found no leaks along the entire 2.6km stretch except by the culvert where we still have to tighten the join, got down to the road and what a pleasant surprise!


I was a bit disappointed with the pressure but on reflection it could be that the combination two leaks and only opening the valve halfway may have something to do with that. In any case, plenty supply for our purposes.

After coffee at the old nursery we drove around to switch the water off again and then continued our quest to finish things by filling in all the holes we had previously dug in the servitude to trace the old pipe. Got a bit carried away and at 14:30 realised that the reason we were running out of energy might be because we had forgotten about lunch!

After lunch we did some more filling in and collected more rocks to stabilize the pipe by Gibson’s gully.


Finally, on the way home, popped past Deon to report on progress and he was very impressed with the results so far.

All in all, a good day at the office.